Writing is a journey, both imaginary and physical. My first book took me to the Arctic to 'catch the colours' of the Northern Lights. Then I hunkered down to catch the wind-blown voices of polar explorers on Shackleton's 1914-17 Endurance expedition. More recently I'm obsessed by space: the race, the rockets, the final frontier.

Hear a BBC Radio Leicester interview about my space poetry at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03wfpyp
Explore my digital narrrative PHILAE'S BOOK OF HOURS, published by the European Space Agency, at:

My prose-poetry collections FIREBRIDGE TO SKYSHORE
and MAD, HOPELESS & POSSIBLE are both published by Original Plus Press at:

Contact me for signed copies or bookings at:

Visit the writers' development service I co-run at: https://www.facebook.com/TheWritersShed/

About Me

My photo
Leicester, East Midlands
As a storyteller, my work crosses boundaries of myth, science, history and spoken word. It has been presented in the British Science Museum, Ledbury Poetry Festival, National Space Centre and the European Space Agency website. In 2014 I ran a digital residency on WW1 for 14-18NOW and Writing East Midlands. I teach Creative Writing at De Montfort University and have experience of leading school events, workshop tuition and mentoring. In addition, I co-run The Writers' Shed, a service for writers, at: https://www.facebook.com/TheWritersShed/

Friday, 29 May 2009

Book Blind and Blazing Trails

Wow! The week that was is a blur of literary dazzle and razzamatazz.

Tuesday 26th Short Fuse

My first visit to the new short fiction showcase at the Y Theatre blew me away. The Y is a great theatre space and the performers, spotlit on a dark stage, were all riveting. Short Fuse selects the material and they were top notch stories. Alison Dunne kicked off with a beautifully crafted, wickedly humorous story; Yvonne Lake's story was a moving dramatic monologue. Nicholas Hogg milked the dramatic potential of his punk story by borrowing a friend, complete with nifty mohican, to deliver his sparky dialogue. We ripped along towards the headliner act, the inestimable Jean Binta Breeze. Jean's Caribbean mother brought us right into her yard kitchen, sharing the intimacy of her life over a pot of 'Saturday soup'. Voices, so many vibrant, emotion-charged voices, made for a wonderful evening. Look out for next month's theme: IDOL - False Gods & Superstars.

Wed. 27th The Muslim Writers Awards

It's hard to believe this started only 3 years ago as a small project initiated by Birmingham libraries. The event we attended at the Hilton Hotel in London could have rivalled the Booker awards and probably had far more panache and bling. Awards for all writing genres, both children and adults, were interspersed between superb acts. We opened with a breathtaking trio of performance poets on the theme of 'Mark my Words'. Music, theatre and film were all woven in. Figures from Bloomsbury, Puffin and Penguin appeared to call for the industry to deliver books and new talent reflecting the experiences of this significant community.

I was lucky enough to have been invited to be one of the judges, along with others from Leicester Writers' Club. I particularly want to mention the winner Shameam Akhtar and the three-times short-listed Zahid Hussain. Shameam had submitted 5 mysterious, beautifully cadenced poems that rambled between East and West and Zahid's was also a startling and original voice. Both deserve publication and hopefully this event will bring them closer to that. What I relished most that evening was the real joy and pride in a community so often misrepresented in our media.

Thursday 28th Picnic Book launch

And no sooner had I landed back in the multi-cultural heartland that is Leicester than I was off to another book launch, this time for the haunting African novel 'The Ghosts of Eden' by Andrew Sharp. Andrew, a local GP, has an uncanny ability to take us right into the lives and skin of his Ugandan herd boy. His extended family appeared last night to undertake a massive catering operation for the 120 guests. We joked he must have threatened his patients with being struck off to fill the hall but really it was the book and the warmth and wit of the man himself that did that job. We were also impressed with the passion and commitment of his publisher Corinne de Souza from the small independent press, Picnic Books. Corinne was blunt about the state of publishing today and the challenges facing the independent sector but the small number of writers on her list are lucky indeed to have this force for change behind them.

And so back to the day job and my second years awaiting mock exam results. I shall arrive still blinded by the bling.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Paper Ceremonies

A book is launched. With warmth and cake, in a sunny hall echoing with chat, it is sent on its way. It's taken me, the author, three years and two trips to the Arctic, to get to this point. Now the book, Firebridge to Skyshore has its own journey to make.

Already it is en route to Bolton and Nottingham and Scunthorpe and Surrey. I was amazed and touched that family and friends came so far yesterday for the launch. We had a lovely gathering of 30 well-wishers – many of them fellow writers and poets – and when everybody was sweetened with Gloria's special Lincolnshire Plum Bread, I loosed some poems into the vaulted arch of the Friends' Meeting House hall. If I forgot my lines, readers jumped in as prompts. 'Eight,' said Audrey and I was away: 'Eight-nine hundred miles a second, a maelstrom of solar winds …'

I've also discovered a book launch, like a wedding or anniversary, is a good occasion for bringing family together. I was joined by by my brother Pat and my sister Dolores Logan with her partner, David. When the idea of the book was still an inkling, I had thought of getting Dolores to illustrate it. Because she is a talented artist specialising in print landscapes. I'm delighted she accepted the challenge of rendering the transparent beauty of the aurora into woodcuts. I've described these exquisite miniature blocks as 'Little ArcticWindows' that open onto the extraordinary world the book evokes.

Davina Prince and I were comparing notes about the process of manufacturing this object of paper and cardboard, the debates over ink colours, the tricky on-line proofreading. And in my litany of thank yous, I was singing the praises of small print presses like Original Plus Press, the first chance for most poets. Sam Smith, my editor, is running a cottage industry in his room at home, printing copies himself and sending them on to be bound. It is a labour of love. And if we find an extra blank page has crept in or the wrong ISBN appeared on the back, it only highlights how 'man-made' and satisfyingly concrete a book is.

My friend Rod Duncan was chatting about whether new breakthroughs in publishing – the digital download, print on demand, electronic 'books' – could mean more and more books appear in electronic form in the future. And would actual paper books, lovingly crafted as Sam's books are, become a niche market for those that can't resist the tangible object? When my own arrived, I sniffed it, listened to it, weighed it in my hand. And the pleasure of seeing the books yesterday fanned out on the table is beyond description. As good as Gloria's plum bread.

And that's one reason why, whatever the future holds, our book launches can never be virtual.

Monday, 11 May 2009

A Football Pass in Coal City

Sam, my editor, passed on to me the kind words of a reviewer in the US. He says that reading Firebridge to Skyshore made him miss his soccer practice!

Which tickles me because of recurring stories about the Northern Lights being the sky spirits playing football. I even wrote a poem called 'Auroral Football'.
'They're stamping their feet, making breath hoots
in the freeezing air, sun-burst shouts ...'

This reader loved the mix of poetry, myth, science and travelogue in the book. And promises a review in the Coal City Review. When I google this, I discover it's in Kansas. So someone is already thumbing a copy of my book on a Sunday morning in the Coal City of the US. And we haven't even got to the book launch yet. The book has crossed an ocean, it's out there with people who've never met me and they're making their own thing of it. The magic of publication is happening.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Chocolate Gothic

Imagine a house where every room has a writer tucked into a window seat with notebook or perched with laptop or a whole flock of them huddled in animated discussion. It's a 17th century farmhouse with flagstone floors and each Gothic window opens onto an expansive view of the rolling Cotswolds hills. The house itself is leaking stories – like the adjacent Thimble Cottage, built to house the mad mistress of a long-dead ancestor. Visitors sleep in the turret or rooms with gargoyles under the eaves.

It's the perfect setting for the annual Mayday gathering of the Leicester Writers Club. Here we plot murder and mayhem between communal feasts at the long dining-room table. 'How can we do a car crash on-stage?' one group debates. That's the 'Nuts and Bolts of Scriptwriting' workshop. In another room, someone edits an explosive scene about a Welsh mining community. Later we discuss Writers and Blogging. There are sessions on Writing Dialogue, Editing Your Poem and that writers' nightmare – How to tackle a Synopsis of your Novel.

Several brave souls volunteer to feed sixteen with their best recipes. Let me recall the home-made Polish barley soup, the sausage and pasta supper and the extravagant chocolate cheesecake... And we closed on Sunday with a 'Writing Feast' of the weekend's words. To my surprise, I'd managed a new poem and a monologue inspired by Middle Stanley's railway tunnel. Indeed the house fairly hummed with writing for three days. And in between dinners and redrafts and rambles round the lake – there was a community renewing itself in the shared pleasure of stories. Long may this May-time ritual continue.